Saturday, August 09, 2014

The Mouse Charmers by Anuradha Goyal

The Mouse Charmers- by Anuradha Goyal

Mouse Charmers is the story of India's internet based startups which have been largely successful in recent years. It covers about 12 companies, including flipkart, RangDe, Indiblogger, Zomato,, makemytrip and others.

When I learnt about this book I had added it to my wishlist in flipkart so that I could buy it once I have few items that take the order to Rs 500. Eventually author/publisher sent me a review copy and I could read this book earlier. When I got this book I was reading Rashmi Bansal's "Take Me Home" which is also focused around businessmen who built new companies from scratch- internet or otherwise. I kept the 'Take Me Home' aside and began reading 'The Mouse Charmers'. Couple of trips to Thailand and Jaisalmer induced some delay in my completing and review of this book, but finally here it is.

Author's choice of companies to feature in the book covers almost all areas of life- from shopping to travel to wedding to social causes. Nevertheless, these are categorized under 3 'C's : "Commerce, Content and Connectors"

Flipkart- It was interesting to know their A/B framework where they experiment new features on a section of live users and retain/modify/discard the feature based on user response- saves lots of brainstorming time, market survey etc.

Flipkart’s aggressive push for Cash On Delivery model, attempts made to make customers comfortable with online purchase and also the fact that flipkart founders originally intended to build a comparison site but built a shopping site after realizing the gap in the online marketplace, among other aspects are definitely worth reading.

MakeMytrip: Learnt from them that outsourcing technology will not help and an internet based startup should eventually have its own in house IT team.  

Zomato insights were very interesting. I didn't know that Zomato team manually visits restaurants and updates data once every 90 days. Zomato recently draw lots of criticism for trying to defame Bangalore as IT capital and propose that New Delhi be declared nation's IT Capital. Eventually they backed out of the campaign, but got enough publicity and probably a bunch of annoyed customers.

Games2win: I couldn't see any focus on educational games. Most of the parents won't like their kids waste time online playing addictive games, without any productive output. I feel websites like Games2win should adopt some social responsibility to ensure that their main customer base- school and college going youngsters don't get distracted too much from their academic activities.

ImageBazaar is a bold move. It is very difficult to sell photographs in India- everyone take it for granted that someone else's images can be copied and used as they please.

Chai with Lakshmi looks little odd choice, as it doesn't appear like a money generating enterprise, at least not yet. But at least it shows that business ideas like that might work.

I had heard from the founder of Bharathmatrimony how they began the portal to facilitate match making. has similar background and growth. Some mention of would have been nice!

Rang De

I had the opportunity to know RangDe founders better when they had attended the Cerebrate event. They are indeed set on a noble mission. Good to see them sustain and grow over the years.

Rangde giving loans to mothers for education purpose of children is new to me. I thought loans were being given only to do small business. Not sure how would repayment happen for this kind of loans-would they ensure that mothers have some other source of income to be able to repay the loan or would repayment happen only after children complete education and start earning?

Book said RangDe didn’t face any major challenges. But couple of years ago, they had an issue in AP- due to farmer suicides followed by political interference, all those who had borrowed simply didn’t pay back. RangDe and its investors had to write off lots of loans. I personally lost a few thousand rupees because of this development. This incident could have got some explanation in the book, as it presents a possible risk in the business.

My earlier post on RangDe

  • Title: The Mouse Charmers
  • Author: Anuradha Goyal
  • Publishers: Random House India
  • Genre: Business
  • ISBN 978-8-184-00492-2
  • Pages: 334
  • MRP:  Rs 299 (flipkart price has been hovering around Rs 198- Rs 238)
Besides writing about the companies, book also provides relevant information such as the ecosystem to support start ups- logistics, CoD, security, payments etc. Author rightly pointed out that India's postal services could have completely revived itself, had it geared up to be the logistics partner for eCommerce companies, by providing fast, reliable delivery and CoD services.

A mention could have been given to incubation centres in IIMB, the startup centre chennai and other facilities that exist to encourage new ventures.

Another interesting thing to note is that whatever we do online is tracked meticulously and will be eventually used to better our experiences or in some cases, penalize us. If you repeatedly dishonor Cash on delivery, it is only a matter of time before algorithms flag your profile and website will deny CoD for your next purchase. Similarly everything else you do and don't do is tracked and will be used during various decision taking process.

Overall it is a great book to read, for those who are looking to start a business or just curious to know how some companies have made it really big. Do grab a copy.

If Anuradha is planning a sequel to the book, I recommend considering Bangalore based Zoomcars. I had the opportunity to meet and interact with Author Anuradha Goyal during the recent Thailand trip-got the book autographed by her there. She said there is no immediate plan for a sequel but that is not ruled out. Currently based in Goa, Anurdha also does consulting work for corporates.
With Anurdaha in Bangkok- clicked by Nisha Jha


Nimi Arora said...

A very interesting and thorough review. This book is on my 'to-read' list too :)

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Do read...

Thanks for the comment